It's raining. It's windy. I could put on my raincoat and wellies and go outside and start pruning, and maybe I will later today, but for now I have decided to stay put and service my pruning shears.
As I have mentioned before, pruning is the most important thing that one can do to grape vines. It stands to reason then that the equipment used should be in tip top condition. I prefer to use Felco pruners but any brand of pruning shears need to be cleaned, sharpened and oiled quite frequently. This will ensure that the pruning cuts are clean, the pruner can work fast and, in the process, doesn't end up slicing through a digit. (Leather gloves are a good idea too).
I'm an OK pruner, but I am not very fast. I would not have stood a chance in the contest that was held last Thursday. The 8th Annual Napa County Pruning Contest attracted the best and fastest pruners in the valley. It's amazing to see these field workers make their way through a vineyard, almost locust like, leaving trimmed vines in their wake. It's back breaking work and I take my hat off to the men, and women, who make it possible for me to enjoy a glass of wine. It's a bit of an art and not everyone is good at it. I acknowledge that there are vineyard managers who oversee operations and wealthy vineyard owners who make the planting of the land to vines possible in the first place. However, it is the pruner who has that one on one interaction with the vine and determines the crop yield and quality of the fruit. Without great fruit a winemaker cannot make great wine. I, for one, am glad that the pruners get a little recognition for the essential work they do.
For a long time, I have wanted to throw down my pruning gloves and challenge somebody, such as ex-ambassador Katherine Hall, to a pruning contest. Vinomaker thinks this is mean spirited of me, but I think it is highly unlikely that she knows anything about viticulture. I am positive she would not accept the duel anyway and even if she did, I'd win gloves down. I'll just have to be satisfied with sticking to drinking wine from producers who actually know what is going on out there in their vineyards.